“Never doubt that fucking rainbow,” frontman Wayne Coyne told his Boston audience following a spaced out jam under an inflatable prism. Coyne and his Heady Fwends brought The Flaming Lips through Boston’s House of Blues in support of their recent release, Oczy Mlody, for a set that showcased new material but focused on fan favorites off their late 90’s/early 2000’s releases.
The sold-out set sandwiched their best-known material around a half hour of abstract material off Oczy Mlody. Most folks asked in the audience would tell you their favorite Lips tunes are off either 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, 2002’s Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots or 2006’s At War With The Mystics, so the group, currently touring as a sextet, bookended their set with material from those albums while focusing on the experimental material off their latest release. Noticeably absent was material from either of their two previous releases, 2013’s The Terror and 2009’s Embryonic.
One thing that instantly impresses at a Lips show is their ability to masterfully recreate their heavily texturized studio work in the live setting. The stage was littered with more Korg and Roland synths, keyboards and digital drum pads than a Guitar Center and the gear wasn’t for show. In addition to providing Coyne with backing vocals, longtime Lips composer Steve Drozd spent the majority of the night multitasking at his synth station while occasionally transitioning to a Fender electric guitar that’s been modified so heavily it’s hard to tell if it’s a Jazzmaster or a Jaguar.
The stage production was so intricate it required two crewmembers to manage the various lighting boards and computers that execute the visual elements of their show. It was impressive how well the lighting accommodated the mood of the song being played. During their anthematic hits like “Race For The Prize,” and “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1” the stage was lit with bright colors that made the band more visible. For a handful of songs in the middle of the show, the Lips effectively hid underneath a curtain of hanging LED strips that amplified a dark psychedelic tone while the band inside stretched their legs on the new material and patiently explored the most experimental sonic landscapes of the night.”
For a group that’s famous for their on-stage theatrics, what impressed most was how they demonstrated an ability to take old shtick and make it feel current. For the longest time, Lips shows started out with Coyne walking across the crowd inside of an inflated plastic balloon and while the novelty was fun, after a few years the bit got old and cut way too deeply into their allotted performance time. When the Lips came through Boston, the show started out with all of the balloons and confetti fans have come to expect, but they saved the Giant Hamster Ball for their tribute to David Bowie. During a heartfelt cover of “Space Oddity,” Coyne got in his transparent ball and rolled to the back of the crowd to perform the song from atop a platform nestled between his audience and the soundboard. Literally rolling over your audience is about as close as performers can physically get to their crowd and rather than use the bit as overdone shtick, Coyne blended it into one of the most meaningful parts of the night, breaking down the line between performer and attendee, making everyone a Bowie fan.
Seasoned fans of The Flaming Lips aren’t going to see anything too new on this tour, with the exception of Coyne riding a glowing uniform during “There Should Be Unicorns,” but with that said, they’re giving new material the attention it deserves while executing the classics as good as they ever have. Regardless of your experience with the group, a ticket to The Flaming Lips is an all access pass to the twisted Wizard of Oz-meets-Willy Wonka world Coyne constructed in his head and presents on stage every night.